by Hope Madden
Reboots are too often tiresome and they frequently taint beloved childhood memories, but you have to admit that the trailers for Vacation are hilarious. Each different clip offers funny bits and clever dialog, but to be honest, they had me as soon as the kid in the back seat put a plastic bag over his brother’s head.
The writing/directing team of Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley bring the John Hughes/Harold Ramis road trip classic into this millennium. The now middle aged Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) decides to relive his childhood vacation by driving his own wife and children across the nation: destination, Walley World.
The cast is very strong. Helms, playing the mild mannered but lovable nerd he does so well, anchors the film and also immediately alters the tone set in the ’83 original. His wholesome dork of a dad delivers plenty of punch lines, but he does as much work as a set-up man, which affords the rest of the ensemble opportunities to shine.
Christina Applegate capably navigates the conflicted mate space, but it’s Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins who kill as the next generation of Griswolds. Stebbins’s psychotic bully of a younger brother is the single funniest thing about this movie, and Gisondo not only establishes a unique character all his own, he’s also an outstanding comic foil for Stebbins.
Charlie Day’s a riot in one of a dozen or more very funny bit parts, while Leslie Mann and Chris Hemsworth are a hoot as Rusty’s sister Audrey and her husband Stone. Aside from them, though, the nods toward the original only manage to slow the movie’s pace.
The writing feels scattered and leads toward too many dead ends, and though the humor often hits the mark, it’s far safer than what they were getting away with back in ’83. Like any road trip film, Vacation uses a highway to string together a series of sight gags. Some work, some fall flat, but thanks mostly to the very solid cast, there are plenty of laughs. That shouldn’t be a surprise, though.
Moose outside shoulda told you.